Under Armour named Berkeley’s new apparel partner

The tallest player in the Cal women’s rugby club, Ceara Lafferty uses her 6’1″ height and power to play lock, a position that demands aggression and excellent catching and tackling abilities. Her bruises hint at the roughness of the sport.

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Ceara Lafferty, a member of the Cal women’s rugby club. (UC Berkeley photo by Josephine Wu)

Such strength and tenacity are vital to all 1,500 students in Cal Recreational Sports’ 34 clubs — and not just to compete. Unlike varsity student-athletes, they’re required to pay in large part for their own uniforms, equipment, coaches, league dues, travel fees, competition and tournament fees and off-campus facility rentals.

“We love our team and work hard to keep it affordable, but raising funds is time-consuming and stressful,” says 20-year-old Lafferty, a third-year media studies major. The club holds an annual banquet and silent auction to offset costs, and each of the 30 members also pays $350 a year in dues that, along with very limited campus funding, only partially covers sports apparel costs.

News that UC Berkeley and Under Armour, the performance apparel company, have a new, 10-year agreement that benefits not only Cal Athletics but the entire campus community — including student-athletes on club teams — is “a game-changer,” says Lafferty. “I honestly think this will take the burden off sports clubs. It also will help us make club sports more accessible to those who can’t pay.”

Beginning in July 2017, Under Armour will exclusively design and supply footwear, apparel and equipment for Cal Athletics as well as clothing for club sports, employ Berkeley student interns and graduates and give exclusive product discounts to campus departments. Under Armour and Berkeley also will collaborate on philanthropic and social responsibility programs.

Mike Williams, Kevin Plank

Under Armour Founder and CEO Kevin Plank joined Cal Director of Athletics Mike Williams at California Memorial Stadium to celebrate the announcement. (Photo by Nathan Phillips/GoldenBearSports.com)

The partnership is a landmark, forward-thinking one, as most outfitting agreements between U.S. colleges or universities and athletic apparel companies typically involve only the school’s athletic department, not the campus at large. The additional campus benefits are part of Berkeley’s recent efforts to build more meaningful, campus-wide partnerships through the University Partnership Program (UPP), an initiative Berkeley launched last summer.

“This is the first outfitting partnership in Berkeley’s history to feature comprehensive, campus-wide benefits,” says Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Mike Williams of the agreement valued at $85.6 million in cash, apparel and operational support. “It also aligns with Berkeley’s goals of excellence in the classroom, on the athletic field and in the greater community.”

A student-focused agreement

Specifically, the Under Armour-Berkeley partnership will bring benefits to the campus that include:

  • Athletic apparel, footwear and accessories for Berkeley’s intercollegiate varsity athletic teams, coaches and staff
  • Exclusive product discounts for campus departments, as well as apparel for Cal Day and Faculty/Staff Appreciation Day
  • Athletic apparel for Cal Rec Sports clubs, which annually spend a total of about $136,000 on uniforms
  • T-shirts for the estimated 700 students on Berkeley’s intramural teams who advance to championship tournaments, for a savings of approximately $7,000
  • Uniforms for the roughly 100 Rec Sports employees, including students, staff, instructors and referees
  • Discounts for faculty, staff and students on Under Armour’s connected fitness system, UA HealthBox
  • Annual employment for Berkeley student interns and graduates
  • Fitness and nutrition challenges for Berkeley students, faculty and staff
  • Collaboration on philanthropic and social responsibility programs

“What I consider important in any partnership is that it positively enhances the student experience,” says Williams, adding that executives at Under Armour – founded by Kevin Plank, who once was a student-athlete at the University of Maryland with innovative ideas about creating better athletic gear – know there are “other Kevin Planks out there” and want to help harness their bright ideas.

Multiple times, Under Armour plans to host two events at Berkeley that allow students to showcase their inventions. One is Future Show, an annual open innovation challenge, and the other is Cupid’s Cup, an annual nationwide competition for undergraduate and graduate students.

In a joint news release issued today, Under Armour CEO Plank called Berkeley “the perfect partner” that shares Under Armour’s commitment to “relentless innovation.”

Under Armour will benefit from the affiliation through the expansion of its footprint in the collegiate market and by being the first apparel company to have a Division I all-school partnership. It also will be tapping campus expertise for Under Armour’s philanthropic and corporate social responsibility programs.

Partners with shared values

One of the most important aspects of developing the agreement was making sure there was alignment between Berkeley’s values and those of Under Armour when it comes to corporate and social responsibility.

“Under Armour’s vision mirrors UC Berkeley’s commitment to innovation, research and entrepreneurship,” says Williams. “Under Armour is a market leader not only in innovation, but in ethical standards, eco-friendly operations and business practices throughout the active wear industry.”

“Berkeley has a long history of and support for social good. We wanted a partner who understood that and would reinforce our efforts and commit to engaging in socially responsible business practices. Under Armour is dedicated to doing just that,” adds Maria Rubinshteyn, director of UC Berkeley’s Office of Business Contracts and Brand Protection.

under armour cal logo In addition to helping to eradicate human trafficking by complying with California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act and seeking to reduce the use of conflict minerals in the production of its goods, she says, “Under Armour is prepared to collaborate with the campus to find solutions to the complex challenges of sustainable sourcing.”

Rubinshteyn adds that Under Armour supports the University of California system’s labor standards that define – in the UC Code of Conduct for Trademark Licensees – the way Berkeley’s logoed goods, especially apparel, should be produced “and require that workers are treated fairly, paid equitable wages, provided a safe and healthy work environment and that the use of forced and child labor is prohibited.”

The apparel agreement leveraged UPP’s collaborative process, which gains input from a group of faculty, staff and student representatives who guide and oversee agreements between Berkeley and prospective partners. UPP’s goal is to streamline business operations, generate new revenue to support Berkeley’s public mission and obtain better services for the campus community.

In June 2015, Berkeley chose Sungevity Inc., a leading global solar service, for the first campus-wide partnership and to be its official solar energy partner. Last October, another 10-year business partnership fostered by UPP established Bank of the West as the “Official Bank of UC Berkeley.” That contract supports merit-based scholarships and paid summer internships for students, as well as funding for priority programs like Bears for Financial Success and the UC Berkeley Food Pantry.

“The inclusive process of pulling together individuals from across campus, including students, to add diverse perspectives is relatively unique,” says Rubinshteyn. “Universities are large organizations, and it is often difficult to break through silos to achieve a common good.  At Berkeley, and through the University Partnership Program process, we’ve shown that it doesn’t need to be.”

Student-athlete Lafferty says the new approach is a great asset to Berkeley.

“It’s refreshing to see varsity athletics, Rec Sports and others on campus coming together to create agreements like this and not being isolated,” she says. “It helps us realize that we’re in this together, we’re all part of this university.”